Southern Furniture Industries confirms about 280 laid off at two plants

·3 min read

Jun. 23—PONTOTOC — Zack McMillen worked for nearly four years on the upholstery line at Southern Motion's No. 2 plant in Pontotoc. On Wednesday, he was laid off.

So, too, was his wife.

The McMillens were among some 280 workers who were let go at Southern Furniture Industries — which includes Southern Motion and Fusion Furniture, both in Pontotoc County.

"When we completed our work yesterday, the supervisor brought us to end of line and called the names of those who were laid off," he said. "They gave us packets to fill out for unemployment. Management told us they'd keep our numbers on record and call back if things got better. They seemed sincere. But nobody wants to find out they're losing their job as they're walking out the door."

Mark Weber, president and CEO of the company, said the layoffs were necessary because of what he described as a temporary industry slowdown in demand for upholstered furniture.

"Southern Furniture Industries regretfully had to reduce our workforce this past week in order to match our production capacity to the current demand environment," he said. "This reduction impacted less than 15% of our approximately 1,900 associates across multiple sites throughout North Mississippi. These are always difficult decisions, and it is our hope to rehire these associates in the near future as demand improves."

The reduction came after company officials asked for voluntary layoffs. Approximately 10 employees took up the offer.

McMillen, who said he had been working just three days a week for several weeks, attended meetings last week where employees were told layoffs were imminent.

"They were also telling people who were laid off that another layoff was coming," he said.

Weber said no other layoffs are planned, however.

"We hope that these actions will allow our remaining workforce to operate at approximately 36-40 hours per week," he said.

McMillen said rumors had been swirling for weeks, particularly after the line he worked on up until a few weeks ago was shut down because of an inability to get pre-cut and pre-sewed kits from China.

"Me and several others who got laid off think what happened had a lot to do with not being able to get the stuff shipped from overseas, but also some of it goes to poor management," he said.

McMillen said six people were laid off from his line, but that didn't include co-workers in cutting, filling and shipping. He said he believed about 85 people were let go from Plant 2 alone.

SFI, in addition to the six plants run by Southern Motion and Fusion, also owns Recline Design, Cushions to Go and Premier Foam.

"The hardest part for our family is that my wife was laid off, too," McMillen said. "She had been there for about four months. She left Ashley because she wanted to try something different. Plus it made it easier with gas prices for us to ride together to work at Southern Motion."

McMillen said his wife hopes to return to Ashley. He, however, isn't sure he wants to get back to furniture.

"I'm not sure what I want to do yet," he said. "Wherever I go, I hope provides good health insurance. I'm a Type 1 diabetic, and my insulin alone costs $1,000 a month without insurance."

dennis.seid@djournal.com